Glory on the Doorstep


It’s here, you know. All around you. Wherever you may live, however beautiful or troubled your life might be at this particular moment in time, it’s near you, as near as your breath. I could palpate it in the room where my mother was dying last year. I see it almost every time I look—really look—out my bedroom windows. Sometimes, it comes in dreams, or in our private imaginings. Sometimes it’s as real as the sweet high soprano in a choral Christmas carol.


I once spent the better part of a year reflecting on that single word as I walked circles in my front driveway. I had just retired after 17 years of pastoral ministry and was completing my training to become a spiritual director. After decades of teaching, preaching, leading Bible studies, and counseling I was both gratified and a tiny bit exhausted by that lovely, long season of my life. As I stepped into a new year and a new identity, I sensed God calling me into a different kind of life and a new way of experiencing my lifelong relationship with the Creator of all that is. My life would be quieter, less in-the-spotlight, but it would also be rich, multi-layered, and deeply satisfying.

And it began with a gentle call away from the usual. The Bible, while still central to so much of who I am, became less prominent in my own daily devotional exercises. Rather than the “quiet time” I had grown used to since about the age of 14, I began to step into the spiritual disciplines in some new and encouraging ways. I had been studying about and teaching these disciplines in various settings for 15-20 years, yet that first year of retirement felt different. I was gently led to put away the Book, to step back from the more rigorous, intellectual exercise that had been the center point of my life for so many years.

Instead, I was being asked to remember something very important, something we western, 21stcentury Christians too easily forget: for centuries, followers of Jesus never had a Bible of their own. In truth, many Christians—around the world and across the last 2,000 years—never had the Word in their own language. Instead, they heard it read to them in worship.

They heard it.

Can you sense how different that is from wrestling with it, examining it under a microscope, questioning it, researching context, author, cultural background, translation questions, etc., etc., etc.? Now all of those things are very, very good and necessary things. Things I value and enjoy. But at this stage of my own journey, I knew that I was being moved in a different direction, away from highly intellectual pondering. I was being invited into something more reflective, intuitive, personal.

And that word “glory” came right to the top of my consciousness each and every day for a year.

I began to listen to the read word on Sunday morning, choosing not to follow along in my own Bible. I practiced lectio divina with smaller and smaller chunks of scripture, chewing on them, rolling the words around in my heart as well as my head, asking for insight, for clarity, for inspiration. I was surprised and pleased to find that much of the memory work I had done at different times in my life would come to me at odd moments of the day—not passages in their entirety, but enough for me to grab a few lovely words as they went flying around inside my head.

And so many of them had to do with glory—looking for it, naming it, owning it.

That year, I began to intentionally look for glory all around me. And I have continued to do so since then. And I often do it with a camera nearby. In fact, I would say that photography (very basic, simple photography!) has become a wondrous spiritual discipline for me. I now write a monthly photo-newsletter in which I encourage others to be on the lookout for glory in the dailyness of their own lives.

Because it’s there, friends. Just waiting to be seen, appreciated, reflected upon, and shared. The eight years since retirement have brought some frightening health situations for me and for others whom I love. There have been several deaths in my close circle, devastating natural disasters, scary surgeries, heartbreak in relationships and workplaces for people I care about, and, of course, the insults of getting older and frailer.

And yet …

And yet, the gift of glory is never diminished, never lost. So, open the door this Christmas season. Open the door of your heart to the possibility of seeing and experiencing this season and your own life in a new way. Whether you find yourself by a hospital bedside, trying to manage life with tiny children, a workplace that feels hostile, a relationship that isn’t working, or with the loneliness that can so often move in and stay during the holidays—ask for eyes to see what is always nearby. A smile, a bright bloom in a hidden place, the glimmer of sunlight on snowfall, the sound of moving water, the laughter of children or the elderly—look for the glory. And celebrate it when it shows up.